Our ‘careers insight days’ offer a unique opportunity for students to develop their skills and confidence. As a volunteer, I helped to guide students through each workshop – sharing their experiences and acting as a role model. I really enjoyed the experience, so when I heard about the mentoring programme and the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with the students, I was keen to get involved.
I enjoy working with less socially mobile students who face greater barriers in their education and career prospects than other students. I thought that having an ongoing relationship with such a student might mean I could help them work out what they want to do in the future, encourage them to go for it and then give them tips on the process, acting as a role model when they come to think about university and careers.
It made me more motivated knowing that my firm, Taylor Wessing, actively encourages us to get involved in this kind of volunteering. It was refreshing to leave my desk in the afternoon for a couple of hours and have a completely different experience to that which we are usually exposed to by working in a law firm.
We had some great content delivered by Future First, which directed our discussion, but the most valuable time for me was the conversations we had in between, where I was able to really connect with my mentee and understand a young person’s perspective and motivation. It was extremely rewarding to see how engaged and enthusiastic all of the students were; there was a real buzz in the room every session.
Our partnership with Future First is a key element of our social mobility strategy, giving young people in state education unique career-building experiences. We do this by encouraging colleagues and clients to share their skills and experiences with students. Encouraging people at the firm to volunteer time to a great cause can have a big impact on employee happiness and productivity, as we feel like we are giving something back to society. The mentoring programme also helped us develop a range of softer skills we might not otherwise get to build on as often; this kind of experience will almost certainly benefit my own career as a solicitor.
The firm also gets the opportunity to develop relationships with talented students from a young age. Most of the students we see on the careers insight days and the mentoring programme are motivated, capable and genuinely interested in a career in law, so we can show them that Taylor Wessing cares about social mobility and is a great place to have a career ahead of other firms.
Creating an inclusive working environment and recognising the value diversity brings to our firm is key to our responsible business strategy at Taylor Wessing. In addition to promoting social mobility, our areas of strategic focus include gender, LGBT+ , wellbeing and cultural diversity. Aside from the obvious aspect of promoting fairness in having diverse organisations that reflect the makeup of society, clients are increasingly telling us that they would like a diverse set of people advising them. That is no real surprise, either, because having a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences leads to diversity in thought and ultimately a better service.
My mentee was very confident and keen to learn. It was clear early on that he was not certain about a career in law, and had not thought in too much detail about what he wanted to do. We used the structured sessions delivered by Future First to facilitate discussion about his interests, skills and work experience, and how all of this could help inform his choices. By the final session, he had a clearer idea of the kind of career he wanted and a better picture of what a career in law entails – luckily, this seemed to encourage him rather than put him off.
The sessions were very practical. By the end of the programme my mentee had a CV that, after updating it to include all of his relevant experience, he seemed much keener to go out to the world with and find a part-time job to broaden his skillset and working experience. He was also more confident in his understanding of a career in law, be it the different careers on offer in a law firm, the difference between becoming a solicitor and a barrister, or the non-necessity of having done a law degree to get there: this knowledge seemed to be the most valuable takeaway from the programme.
This all goes to show that developing awareness of the legal industry goes a long way to breaking down the barriers to accessing it.
Callum Macauley is a solicitor at Taylor Wessing. The firm works in partnership with national education charity Future First